Washington Adventist University Department of Religion Responds to General Conference Church Governance, Unity Document

The following statement was unanimously approved by the faculty members of the Washington Adventist University Religion Department in response to the General Conference document, "A Study of Church Governance and Unity." The statement was approved on October 14, 2016 and published on the WAU website on October 18.

Religion Department Faculty Washington Adventist University Voted Friday, October 14, 2016

Together with our colleagues at other sister institutions we, the faculty of the Department of Religion at Washington Adventist University, embrace and uphold the biblical principle of the unity of the church grounded in our worship of God, our common faith, our shared community under the Lordship of Christ, and our shared sense of mission. At the same time, we have serious concerns about the document titled “A Study of Church Governance and Unity” recently released by the General Conference and its portrayal of the nature and authority of the church. We share the concern voiced by other theologians and scholars that there needs to be a much wider further discussion on this very important ecclesiological issue before it is adopted and becomes binding.

We recognize the biblical principle of justice (the same word English Bibles translate as “righteousness”) as an authoritative guide for Christian living. We believe that the church is accountable for the vast body of knowledge that divine Providence now makes available to the human community to inform us on how to more perfectly apply God’s righteousness/justice to the life and witness of the faith community. We further state our concerns over the concept of ordination that is laid out in the document, a concept that seems to borrow a lot more from tradition than from biblical evidence. We believe it reflects the influence of an age-long culture of gender alienation, characterized by overt and covert forms of male domination (Deut. 22:13-30; 1 Cor. 11:3-10; I Tim. 2:11-15), which according to the apostle Paul, we overcome if we are in Christ (1 Cor. 11:11-12; Gal 3:28; cf. Gen 1:28). Thus, we claim the responsibility to respond to the promptings of the Spirit, which leads us to greater inclusiveness of meaning and enables us to overcome this culture of human brokenness through mutual servanthood as we move towards, embrace, and reflect God’s reign of righteousness. It is our sincere hope that more discussion and deliberation will take place before the elements of this document become church policy.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7712

Thanks WAU for a Welcome Contribution to the Ongoing Discussion of Church Governance & Unity!

May I remind all interested parties however, that given the input of the GC Administrative Committee, the 50 page original document entitled “A Study of Church Governance and Unity” with its discussion of ordination issues was left aside. In its place, the 3 page policy document “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation” was rushed into circulation half-baked and incomplete and ultimately voted as church policy with the intention that it shall be expanded at a later date to include the “grave consequences” of working policy non-compliance by various church entities. This 3 page church policy document leaves aside any reference to the nature of ordination. The unsatisfactory nature of this policy document was amply elucidated in the debate from the floor of Annual Council, yet it was still voted.

Yes, the original 50 page document that is the subject of this impressive critique illustrates for all to see the lack of understanding by so many concerning the nature of ordination.

Ordination in the Adventist Church is an interesting concept. It differs in character from ordination that is offered in most all other Christian denominations. This is not readily recognized in Adventist circles.

  1. Adventist ordination does not create a distinct and exalted Reverend clergy class with a special connection with God. It does not impart a special seal - the dominicus character enabling the ordained person to act as mediator between God and Man. Adventist leaders are an important part of the laos, the whole people of God.

  2. Adventist ordination doesn’t create additional bridegrooms of the bride of Christ, other than Christ himself. Truly, we do not believe in male headship in the ecclesial context. Some Christian clergy even wear a ring symbolizing their marriage to the Bride of Christ. Many wear vestments and dog collars signifying their membership of the distinct clergy class. Adventist leaders are an important part of the laos, the whole people of God.

  3. Adventist ordination doesn’t identify those who are truly called of God to serve and minister in His name. The NT makes it abundantly clear that all believers and saints are called by God to serve and minister to the church and the world. The calling by God of every individual saint to serve Him is enfolded in the specific spiritual gifting of that believer. Adventist leaders are an important part of the laos, the whole people of God.

This is exactly why the arguments used against ordination of Adventist women in leadership cannot be imported wholesale from other Christian communions, This is exactly why I dislike the use of the term “ordination” within the Adventist context. This is exactly why Adventists must continue to discuss and debate the nature and practice of “ordination.” A new paradigm for the understanding of “ordination” cannot but rise from the ashes of our existing broken and brittle paradigm. Several of the European Unions have moved ahead toward such a new paradigm. However, some American Unions have moved ahead with merely extending this broken paradigm to women, without much willingness to think outside the box to devise a new paradigm for the understanding of “ordination.”

Adventists must enlarge our understanding of hermeneutics to embrace how we deal with issues with a cultural element to them, as “ordination” does. Also, Adventists must find a way to embrace freedom of conscience as a principle of biblical interpretation.

Meanwhile, the now voted church policy “Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation” has a much wider brief to enforce compliance on any FB, working church policy or Executive & Session action.

Let’s declare 2017, the 500th Anniversary Year of Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses on the Church door in Wittenberg, as the Adventist Year of Conscience and Religious Freedom. After-all, 1517 was the beginning of the Protestant Reform-ation of Christianity, a Christianity whose conscience is bound by the Word of God and not the dictates of church policy and law. Perhaps this is the time when we should educate the Adventist conscience to obey the dictates of the Word.


The number of statements is growing… Expect more to come.

However, the following statement is puzzling, as the response came after the vote, which already made “this document” officially (at least de jure ) “church policy”…


Exactly. That’s what those who voted for the document wanted.

2017 500th Anniversary of "Sola Scriptura"
YES! But Seventh day Adventists have their OWN Scriptures. Their own theologians translating the Hebrew and Greek.

We do not depend on NON- SDAs – Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, The KJV scholars, the newer translations – ALL completed in English by NON- Seventh day Adventists to inform us as to what Scripture says.


Grab your popcorn and sit back to watch the show as the GC exacts revenge on its know-nothing academics in the coming years. Word on the street is that they really dislike theologians, and the stand being taken by our university faculty will not go unpunished. I say we pray for divine intervention.



Perhaps I don’t have all the facts, but I’m not aware that SDA’s have their own Scriptures and that they do not rely on the work of Wycliffe, Tyndale, etc.

There is the Clear Word, but this is not officially adopted by the SDA Church and in comments about that, I found this:

“In the English language for example, the church uses the King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New American Bible, [sic] [recte New American Standard Bible] the New International Version, and others”
— Australasian Conference Association Limited[8]

So not sure your comment is correct, but perhaps you have other knowledge than I.

Seems the umpire wants to name the players. A person can head a denomination but christ alone is head of the Church.

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